Anakbayan Canada rejects the Anti-Terrorism Bill being rushed into law by the Philippine Congress. The bill deems one a “terrorist” for joining a protest, posting or resharing “terrorist” content online, and donating to organizations that are “not recognized by the government”. Simply retweeting or sharing memes can make you a “terrorist”. The vague definition of “terrorism” is used to violate the basic human rights of all Filipinos to freedom of speech and expression – especially if these are exercised to criticize the government.
As millions of Filipino people continue to suffer from the daily violence of poverty and hunger, unemployment and landlessness, the Duterte regime’s priorities are clear: to preserve the status quo to serve its imperialist masters and destroy the forces pushing for fundamental social change. The Duterte regime is only interested in serving the ruling elite while exacerbating the country’s festering ills.
In the midst of the pandemic, the regime uses fear and violence to control the people instead of carrying out mass testing, providing relief goods and financial assistance to those in need, and personal protective equipment to frontline workers. The President was granted “emergency powers” that included 275 billion pesos and until now, nothing has been done to improve the conditions of the most vulnerable sectors of society. Many frontline workers have died due to lack of PPE. Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) have been stranded in their host countries or stuck at quarantine facilities in Metro Manila waiting for test results for almost two months. Working class and poor citizens have been harassed, unlawfully detained, and even killed for violating Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) rules.
Meanwhile, police officers throw birthday parties during quarantine and certain politicians are able to get tested more than once and receive quick test results. None of them are penalized even as they put people in harm’s way. The Filipino people are even told to show them compassion.
The Anti-Terror Bill legitimizes state violence and brutality. We saw the Duterte regime silence journalists and trample on press freedom, recently shutting down ABS-CBN, the country’s biggest media network. The Duterte regime has also been notorious for red-tagging, detaining, and murdering activists, land defenders, and farmers, lawyers, and students. This time, it will be easier for the police and military to abuse their power even more. Anyone who is against the government is considered an enemy.
As Filipino youth in the diaspora, we must not let these attacks deter us. We can use our voices to expose and bring awareness to what is currently happening to our motherland. Activism is NOT terrorism. Being critical of the government is NOT terrorism. Demanding accountability and a better future is NOT terrorism. As June marks Filipino Heritage Month in Canada, let us remember our revolutionary history and embody the strength of our ancestors who fought for our rights and freedom. We call on the Filipino youth to join us in the fight for national democracy and a just and lasting peace in the Philippines!